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Int J Eat Disord. 1995 Jul;18(1):71-7.

Olfactory dysfunction in anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

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  • 1Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto, Ontario.


Fifty-five eating-disordered women and 16 normal controls participated in this study to determine whether olfactory function is altered in patients with food-restricting anorexia, anorexia with bulimic features, and bulimia nervosa. Olfactory function was assessed using the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test and by determining phenyl ethyl alcohol odor detection thresholds. Only the very low-weight anorexics showed impairments in their identification and detection of odors. This group's olfactory function did not improve from admission to discharge despite significant weight gain. Although, overall, smoking had only a minor influence on olfactory function, the very low-weight anorexic smokers had the lowest scores of all subjects. Since higher-weight anorexics did not show such impairments, the results suggest that the severe and prolonged starvation experienced by the very low-weight anorexics caused or contributed to intractable deficits in the olfactory system and that these deficits are compounded by smoking.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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